Superheroes!!

dazed and confused

 

Done!

We did it 😀😀😀.  Thank you for supporting us, sponsoring us, coming on the journey with us.  There have been ups and downs, a bit of sideways, laughter and tears, injuries, illness, recovery, a new bike, a resignation, a house renovation and an election.

It all started when the multi- tasker’s sister thought it would be fine for a couple of slow sprint triathletes to upgrade to double the swim length, more than triple the bike leg, nearly triple the run and add a bit of kayaking for good measure……  Safe to say, we had never been in a kayak before: although Meg was a rower at uni, she struggled with the concept of forward motion in the water!  We knew we had to do 6 months of training and we started off well.  We had a bit of injury and a horrible virus impeding progress, but we got back in the saddle (Meg literally did most of her training in the saddle – lesson number one, cross training is effective!)  

We were doing marvellously but then Meg had to move out of her house for it to be renovated and an election was called.  Other things were suddenly a priority.  The training schedule was abandoned early on – from the other side I can now report lesson number 2: you can still race without the training but it takes significantly longer.

The last supper

Yum!

We were both supposed to register and listen to the safety briefing on Friday 16th, but the hobbit was still saving lives in Beccles, so Meg had to freak herself out and have a panic attack on her own.  Luckily there was a carb-loading supper for her, unluckily, we found out there was a cut off for starting the run of 16.30.   Pressure!  The upside of lifesaving was a very civilised “last supper” with as many carbs as possible – two bread rolls!! – for the hobbit when she finally rolled up.

Good morning sunshine

burnham market

Saturday morning was beautiful.  A sleepy Norfolk village, a lovely hotel, beaches nearby.  And we were planning to swim a mile, kayak 3 miles, bike 45 miles and then run 8 miles.  Breakfast ensued!  What a dilemma.  Facebook came to the rescue –  More carbs and salt:

love


So far so civilised.  You can tell I was in denial, really.

The race

the competition: ironman and superman – gulp!

My bubble of calm evaporated when I got to the race site and saw ironmen and women setting up.  This is it.  The multitasker had her superhero t-shirt on, she’d picked us a kayak and some lifejackets and we had a spot on the bike rack.  

chaotic transition area – bad hobbit

The idea is you set out a coloured towel (to identify your spot) under your bike and lay out everything you need in an orderly fashion to swap between disciplines.  There was a lot of gear (and food – second breakfast!). The multitasker was flirting outrageously with a young lad with “thighs like pony’s” (and I quote).

We got our tatts done:


And our ankle tags.  Always a bit disconcerting to be tagged and enumerated….for ID purposes in case we were found drifting out to sea in the kayak…..?

Swimming – 1 mile

Next step was getting half in the wetsuit and being shipped out to a beach 1 mile up the creek from which we would swim back.  Being in the boat stopped the nerves as it was a gorgeous day and you could pretend you were going on a cruise. 😂😉😂🤔.  The other competitors had mostly done it before and were extremely helpful explaining how fast they could go😶.  We had a quick acclimatise in the (surprisingly pleasant) water, were corralled through a headcount and then off went the hooter and we splashed in.

Of course, everyone worries about the vicious tactics of the open water swim.  Certainly supergirl and ironwoman, our fellow Beccles superheroes, got kicked and pushed around.  The solution is to breastroke calmly at the back having a nice chat.  The multi-tasker needs calming and reassuring that there are no sharks or dead bodies coming to get her and the hobbit is incapable of doing freestyle.  It’s true that the RNLI kayakers and paddle boarders going alongside for safety got totally bored with us but on the brightside, the multitasker got to flirt with some more muscle-bound teenagers…….

Hilariously, there was a point at which we hit a sandbank and everyone stood up and walked, there were two jellyfish, one stung me a bit, but otherwise it was a glorious swim and by the end even the multitasker had stopped panicking and enjoyed it.

Kayaking – 3 miles

33 minutes after the hooter we were dashing up the quay to our kayak ripping off the wetsuit and wheezing only very slightly. (Big improvement on last year – shorty wetsuit recommended). The kayak was heavy and we had to go barefoot over gravel to get it back in the water.  Hope there’s no video 😱.  We had our very own safety kayaker beside us as we were last, but we motored down the course due to the engine powerhouse that is the multitasker.  

Hawaii 5-0 ?


And then there was an unexpected snag – the creek ran out and we had to push the kayak 100 yards across a mudbank before getting back in to finish the course.  Spoiler alert – this was not the only time I was nearly lost to the mud…..

By the time we finished (49 minutes) we were no longer last.  More kayak manhandling, with the help of an elderly lady (respect!) and we were back in transition, squirting on sunscreen and ready to bike.  We even saw supergirl and ironwoman dashing off just ahead of us, so we knew we were doing OK.  The multitasker has decided kayaking is her next sport – I have to concur, it was a fabulous addition to triathlon.🚣

The bike leg – 45 miles

muddy but elated

We started riding at 12.50, anticipated a time of 3.5 hours so it was going to be a close shave to get on the run before the 16.30 cut off.  This didn’t really make us go any faster but we absorbed gels and flapjacks and rehydration drinks for good measure.  The bike leg is extremely undulating.  Great road surfaces compared to all the potholes in Suffolk, but it was all up, down, up, down.  We never quite managed to draft each other very well as the hobbit could get up hills quickly and the multitasker could get down them quicker.  However, we stayed together and did more chatting.  There was a banana and water oasis at mile 20 by the Sandringham stud where we found other cyclists, saw various people with punctures and learned someone had already broken their collarbone falling off.  Undeterred we pedalled on.  At one point the multitasker got ahead and two nice “sweepers” picked me up and let me draft behind them to catch her up.  I swear we were doing 60mph! 🚴😁.  We made it to Holkham Hall where there is a little “out and back” round the obelisk.  This was the only time we could see who was behind or ahead of us and I was grateful to be able to say “we’re not last!” As I realised the person 200 yards behind us was supergirl.  This was extraordinary.  Supergirl is a top cyclist averaging 18 mph.  She had set out on the bike ride a minute or two before us.  What had happened?  Turns out, supergirl and ironwoman’s team name was the prescient “wrong direction”!   There were moments on the bike ride when the multitasker was flagging.  But like a true superhero she didn’t moan about her creaky knee or agonising sacroiliac joints, she just pedalled.  I hadn’t taken on quite enough hobbit nutrition so by mile 43 there was a loss of momentum (understatement for grinding halt) but a gel soon sorted it and then suddenly we were back in transition, more sunscreen and off on the run. (3h32mins on the bike – just made the cut off!)

The “run” – 7 miles sand dunes 1 mile mud

The first bit of the run goes past the finish line where loads of finished superheroes were basking in their glory – so we had to run past them really fast to look as though we were trying!  But then we got to a raised bank where the heat was radiating up off the ground and it felt like an oven and we just had to stop and walk.  At this point, the small voice of supergirl was heard and she came running up behind us, with ironwoman trailing behind.  They had got lost, had to stop at a bike shop and ask directions, then lost each other again after a pee stop.  Ironwoman did not look well, but she was absolutely determined to carry on, so we agreed to stick together and walk.  But then we reached the sand dunes and almost ground to a halt.  Even just walking across the sand was hard in that heat so we struggled on slower and slower.  There was a curious mirage in the sand of a tropical cocktail bar with grass skirts, Hawaiian Lei & pina colada.  The multitasker had one (pina colada) & perked up considerably!

Eventually we got to the wooded area off Holkham beach and tried a bit of jogging but ironwoman suddenly felt faint and got goosebumps and looked really poorly.  Luckily there was a Marshall station so we took on water and poured water over her and just walked on – no more running.

Finally, we got to the last bit which involved crossing all the creeks to get back to the start over the muddy marsh.  Getting wet feet was initially lovely but soon we were meeting deep creeks which we had to jump down and crawl up trying not to lose our trainers in the mud.  I failed.  The multitasker hauled me out but the trainers were unable to come with me.  Actually it was better barefoot.  By this time I had lost the capacity to make any decisions and nearly got stuck on one side of a creek with sheer sides wondering if I would ever make it out of the mud.  The multitasker was clearly enjoying herself – times like that you need an army Major sorting out the troops:  luckily, the great thing about Norfolk Superhero is you have your superhero buddy to egg you on (or drag you through the mud!) whenever you are flagging.  I think we even ran a bit towards the finish and then stumble-waded through the final creek to cross the finish line – all 4 of us hand in hand. (2h 34 min)

……and we beat number 77 & 78 who got the wooden spoon!

7h38min27seconds all done.

What’s next?

Massive thanks to everyone who has put up with us, massive thanks to the organisers and the amazing marshalls who were SO supportive and a massive rest.  Before we started the multitasker said – “do it again next year?” the answer was NO!  But now it’s – “can we do it every year?”

If we keep going, we could win the zimmer cup (combined age of superhero team > 100) in 2024 – so we’ll keep you all posted!

 

Tech Tuesday

Breathing underwater…

Last week we looked at what the well dressed swimmer is wearing, now we’ll consider how they’re breathing.  

going under

Thought you didn’t need to be taught how to breathe?!  Think again.  Thought you didn’t need any technology to help you breathe?!  You got it, think again. Even knowing all the inventive ways to earn money from athletes desperate for milliseconds we’ve already encountered, today’s tech really takes the top slot!

Technique

Firstly a bit of tech, as in technique.  It is important to breathe out when your head is underwater.  I was unaware of this & always simply held my breath.  The reason becomes clear when you turn your head to breathe in freestyle or rise up out of the water in breaststroke – if you’ve held your breath you can’t let it out and breathe in again quickly enough before you go back under.  

Also, breathing out slows your heart rate (breathing in quickens it – a phenomenon known as “sinus arrhythmia”, fact fans) and so you will feel much calmer with your head in the water as you perceive your pulse slowing with the out-breath.  This is also why yoga 4-7-8 breathing works to calm you down for sleeping.

If you are doing breaststroke you generally breathe every stroke and you are looking forwards.  So far so easy.  If you swim “front crawl” you have a number of breathing choices.  You can breathe every other stroke, every third stroke or any combination.  If you breathe every other stroke you’ll always be breathing to the same side, which could off balance you or veer you off course.  If you breathe every third stroke you may not be able to sustain a fast pace, but at least you get to turn your head side to side and avoid neckache.  You should look behind you and try to breathe in the lee of your arm, or you’ll be snorting water.  

In open water, however, every few breaths you’ll need to look ahead and sight the buoy you are heading for, or you’ll waste valuable time and energy plotting your own course.  (& upset the kayakers looking after you)

Technology

Well, maybe not technology, more “kit”.  If you are trying to perfect your stroke or your kick, you might want to eliminate the stress of concentrating on your breathing as well.  Many swimmers use a snorkel for this.  Not content with using a normal mask and snorkel from your last seaside holiday, “they” will sell you swimming specific snorkels!

If this doesn’t make you laugh, you’re an olympic swimmer.  Luckily they don’t cost very much, if you do feel the need to try one.  On a serious note, if you’re swimming for pleasure or leisure and have always struggled with the breathing, since they don’t cost much (<£30) maybe it’s a good investment to get you in the pool.  Also, solves any neck pain issues as you can keep your head inline.

But, there is a gold-plated version of this.  (of course!)  For between 3 and 4 times the price you can get a swimmer specific training snorkel that has two tubes, one for “air in” and one for “air out”.  I haven’t quite worked out the benefits but it looked so hilarious I had to show you one:

So there you have it – how to breathe!  An essential superhero technique 😉 

Tech Tuesday

Swimming Tech

Well, here we are.  We’ve got our goal in mind, we’re working towards it.  We’ve got the I.T. sorted.  We can weigh in and monitor everything and we have motivator apps and buddies to cheer us on and top toons in our ears while we go. Now we just have to do it.

The quadrathlon is swim-kayak-bike-run so we’ll tackle them in that order. Except we won’t: the kayak is new to us so we’ll explore it together when the weather gets better!  Let’s have a look at swimming tech:

Boggle at the goggles

Do you need technology in order to swim!?  What a concept!  Well, so far we’ve got the swimtag, the waterproof bluetooth earphones and iPod shuffle.  Probably a swimsuit would be helpful, some goggles and a wetsuit for open water.

Swimsuits have gone and got technical.  You can still buy one in Marks and sparks, but if you’re a good swimmer (we’re not!) a technical swimsuit can make you faster.  With compression, hydrophobic fabric, engineering and even copper in the material and stroke specific designs you can pay a lot of money to shave seconds off your swimtime.  If you want to read a review here you can, but our view is that the swim being the smallest portion and our weakest discipline we’ll carry on with speedo!

But goggles – how we boggled at the change in swimming goggles since we were nippers.  When we started triathlon neither of us put our heads in the water.  We swam along having a nice chat and annoying everyone else (sorry!).  Then the multitasker got goggles.  Amazing goggles.  Instead of sitting inside your eye socket misting up and letting in water they are like scuba masks and use clever silicon to make a seal around your face and some amazing “no misting” inside coating so you don’t even have to spit in them!  Read more reviews here.  Your choice is your budget and whether to go for a simple pool goggle with a clear lens or whether you might need a tint for open water sunny days.  Even the shortsighted are catered for – for a small amount extra you can add prescription lenses.  The multitasker doesn’t want to see the sharks coming at her though so that might be a step too far…..

Wiggle in the wetsuit

A lot of people fear the wetsuit.  They have good reason – mine nearly killed me, but that is another story, for a theory Thursday.  But actually, if you’re going to swim in open water you will feel more buoyant and secure and you can also swim faster.  Also, you will be warmer – which in the UK is a “good thing”.

Triathlon has it’s own wetsuits.  Like the technical swimsuits they have compression and they have different neoprene thicknesses depending on where you need to be flexible or warm.  Finally, they have a lovely sheeny smooth coating that makes you look like a rubber seal, but apparently makes you cleave through the water like a porpoise.

You can even get a custom-made wetsuit to fit you perfectly, if you’ve got the wherewithal, but whatever you decide, it’s time to “dive-in”***

 

***so sorry, Hobbits can resist a terrible pun.

 

 

Theory Thursday

“Hiit it!”

H.I.I.T. – High intensity interval training.  It’s all the rage.  We’ve suggested your exercise regime could be much less boring, less slogging away at one medium speed on the treadmill or the exercise bike for an hour in your “fat burning” zone (and more of that in a theory thursday one week!) but what do you replace traditional “cardio” with, and why?

sample of a balanced weekly activity schedule

You heard last week that adding strength training +/- weights is an essential part of a healthy long life.  Two of your weekly workouts for 30 minutes should be strength, not on consecutive days.  Then you’ll add in a rest day to your week – on which you DO NOT sit on the couch of sloth but walk, do yoga, foam roll, play in a sandpit (or something).  You may then still want one day of a run or a bike ride that’s longer, especially if you’re planning a race.

So, you’ve got 3 days left to schedule in some activity and you want to be targeted.  If you’re training for an event you’ll be using those days for interval/hill training but if you’re just remodelling your lifestyle to add healthy things into the gaps you could try “H.I.I.T.” for 2 days.

Don’t forget to save one day for a recovery workout which could be power yoga, ballet or try this one from livestrong

What is H.I.I.T.?

No surprises, it does what it says on the tin.  The idea is “high intensity“.  No messing, this is massive, hard, fast efforts that leave you dripping with sweat and absolutely exhausted.  During a high intensity interval you should reach your “anaerobic zone” – that’s the heart rate at which your body cannot keep up the oxygen supply to the muscles.

How do you know you’re working hard enough?  You can use a heart rate monitor and work it out, but if you’ve got enough energy left to check your HR monitor I reckon you’re not going hard enough.  I find “RPE” or “rate of perceived exertion” to be a better guide (plus, I don’t have a heart rate monitor!)  In the rest periods you should be gently moving at a level that you could carry on a conversation, in the high intensity periods you cannot talk – it’s a “full sprint” “Usain Bolt” feeling.  You’ve done it right if you feel slightly nauseated 😉

Tabata

The upside is, it’s intervals.  i.e. you’re not expected to go “full out” for any significant length of time.  The intervals range in length but the Tabata regime  is well established. It’s 20 seconds flat out then a 10 second rest period between intervals.

And the really good news?  If you want to be a purist, you do this for 4 minutes only (8 cycles).

How does that work?

Only 4 minutes of exercise?  Really?  Yes, really.  Here’s the science.  In essence, you’re creating an “oxygen debt” by working so hard that your body pays off for the next 24 hours, so you’re still burning calories long after you finish.

The important thing is to absolutely wring every last drop and ounce of effort out in each interval of activity.  Of course you will want to warm up and cool down and stretch, so plan on 20 minutes in the pain cave (I am adding a “faff factor”, too) and 10 minutes to shower afterwards!  So its still a 30 minute aliquot of time to find in the day – but you’ve been looking for that already.